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Overcrowding Issue Hounds School Board Solutions For Post Falls Dilemma Include Taking Over Dog Track, Double-Shifting And Year-Round Classes

Some novel ideas to relieve student overcrowding in Post Falls surfaced at a Thursday night hearing, including remodeling the defunct dog-racing track into a high school.

But most comments focused on shortterm solutions that have been rejected in the past as Post Falls School District repeatedly tried, and failed, to get voter approval for school-building bonds.

One option is to send students to school in shifts.

“The only way to get people to pass a bond is to really inconvenience them,” parent Paul Wagner told school board members. “We’ll have to do double-shifting sooner or later, so I’d just as soon do it now.”

The hearing at Ponderosa School was the first of three being held this month. Others are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Jan. 16 at Seltice Elementary, and 7 p.m. Jan. 23 at Prairie View Elementary.

The district is growing at an average rate of 3 percent a year and already has 430 students more than its buildings were designed to hold.

“Ultimately, the community is going to have to pass a bond issue,” said district Superintendent Richard Harris.

Meanwhile, the board must decide what do with all of those youngsters. Chairman Kevin Schneidmiller promised a decision by mid-February.

It was Harris who brought up the idea of converting the former dog-racing track into a high school. That was first suggested by a patron last fall, he said.

“The first time I heard it, I chuckled. But there’s kind of a unique concept in that,” he said, noting that the track is near North Idaho College’s Workforce Training Center and a proposed University of Idaho facility. That could allow for shared buildings and programs, he said.

But the track’s existing 75,000 square feet of building space would have to be remodeled, and another 100,000 square feet would have to be added.

The cost of buying and changing the property could surpass that of building a school from scratch. But the idea is still being explored, Harris said, and will be explained in detail at an upcoming board meeting.

Short-term solutions to the space crunch got the most attention.

The district is considering using the Frederick Post Building to house all sixth- or all first-graders. That would require moving or eliminating the New Visions Alternative School, kindergarten, preschool and gifted and talented programs.

Also discussed Thursday:

Portables. Parent Steven Lennis suggested more portable classrooms might be the best temporary solution, because they could be sold later and some of the cost recouped.

Double-shifting. “I plead with you not to disrupt families with double-shifting,” said Danelle Rasmussen, explaining how her family makes quality time at home a priority and that would be hurt if kids went to school at different times.

Year-round school. A year-round, multi-track schedule would put only three-fourths of the students in the classroom at once.

If all of the schools went to such a system, officials estimate, it would solve the space crunch for six to nine years. It would also require spending more than $1.2 million on air-conditioning.

Parent Bryan Hillstead spoke in favor of that approach. He said his children attended year-round school in Utah. Hillstead liked it once he realized they could all be on the same schedule and the school year was broken up by three-week breaks, when the family could take vacations.

, DataTimes